Olivet Discourse Matthew 24:29

What in the Heavens is going on? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Ah. Now we’re getting into stuff that definitely sounds like it’s more in line with futurism. After all, surely none of this stuff happened in the 1st century. Right? What kind of stuff? Let’s look at Matthew 24:29

” Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

Years ago, Neil Degrasse Tyson sadly gave a more common reading of this passage.

“You know, one of the signs that the second coming, is that the stars will fall out of the sky and land on Earth. To even write that means you don’t know what those things are. You have no concept of what the actual universe is. So everybody who tried to make proclamations about the physical universe based on Bible passages got the wrong answer.

Sadly, most churches today would accept this reading as well. After all, there’s supposed to be something sacred in taking the text literally. I prefer to take the text as I think Jesus really intended it. Jesus was more than a prophet of course, but he was at least that. How did prophets speak? We go to the Old Testament to find out.

2 Samuel 22 is one of my favorite passages to go to. Look at this song David sings about his lifetime.

“In my distress I called upon the Lord;
    to my God I called.
From his temple he heard my voice,
    and my cry came to his ears.

“Then the earth reeled and rocked;
    the foundations of the heavens trembled
    and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils,
    and devouring fire from his mouth;
    glowing coals flamed forth from him.
10 He bowed the heavens and came down;
    thick darkness was under his feet.
11 He rode on a cherub and flew;
    he was seen on the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness around him his canopy,
    thick clouds, a gathering of water.
13 Out of the brightness before him
    coals of fire flamed forth.
14 The Lord thundered from heaven,
    and the Most High uttered his voice.
15 And he sent out arrows and scattered them;
    lightning, and routed them.
16 Then the channels of the sea were seen;
    the foundations of the world were laid bare,
at the rebuke of the Lord,
    at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.

Search all you want through the life of David and you will not find this. You will not find YHWH hitching a ride on Gabriel and Michael and coming down Green Arrow style blasting the bad guys. You will not find the channels of the sea being seen and the foundations of the world laid bare. So either we believe that the writer of this text had to leave out one of the most amazing events in the life of David, or else that we are misunderstanding the way Jews speak if we take this literally.

Isaiah 13 is another such case.

Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
    cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the land a desolation
    and to destroy its sinners from it.
10 For the stars of the heavens and their constellations
    will not give their light;
the sun will be dark at its rising,
    and the moon will not shed its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil,
    and the wicked for their iniquity;
I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant,
    and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.
12 I will make people more rare than fine gold,
    and mankind than the gold of Ophir.
13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble,
    and the earth will be shaken out of its place,
at the wrath of the Lord of hosts
    in the day of his fierce anger.
14 And like a hunted gazelle,
    or like sheep with none to gather them,
each will turn to his own people,
    and each will flee to his own land.
15 Whoever is found will be thrust through,
    and whoever is caught will fall by the sword.
16 Their infants will be dashed in pieces
    before their eyes;
their houses will be plundered
    and their wives ravished.

Now some of you might be tempted to think this is future, but wait. God says in the next verse that he is raising up the Medes against them. The Medes did eventually come and conquer Babylon. However, none of the stuff if taken literally happened as described.

Ezekiel 32

“You consider yourself a lion of the nations,
    but you are like a dragon in the seas;
you burst forth in your rivers,
    trouble the waters with your feet,
    and foul their rivers.
Thus says the Lord God:
    I will throw my net over you
    with a host of many peoples,
    and they will haul you up in my dragnet.
And I will cast you on the ground;
    on the open field I will fling you,
and will cause all the birds of the heavens to settle on you,
    and I will gorge the beasts of the whole earth with you.
I will strew your flesh upon the mountains
    and fill the valleys with your carcass.
I will drench the land even to the mountains
    with your flowing blood,
    and the ravines will be full of you.
When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens
    and make their stars dark;
I will cover the sun with a cloud,
    and the moon shall not give its light.
All the bright lights of heaven
    will I make dark over you,
    and put darkness on your land,
declares the Lord God.

This describes God’s judgment on Israel in the past. Again, the language is eerily similar to what we find in the Olivet Discourse. Once again, either we need to take it all literally or we need to try to understand the way ancient Jews spoke.

Ezekiel 39 has the following:

“Then those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go out and make fires of the weapons and burn them, shields and bucklers, bow and arrows, clubs and spears; and they will make fires of them for seven years, 10 so that they will not need to take wood out of the field or cut down any out of the forests, for they will make their fires of the weapons. They will seize the spoil of those who despoiled them, and plunder those who plundered them, declares the Lord God.

This kind of passage shows us that many prophecies were indeed for the near future. Many futurists interpret this as a great future battle. It will be an interesting one if we are using bows and arrows and shields and bucklers again. True, some prophecies had a long range far ahead into the future, but to read many dispensationalists today, you’d think the only times worth talking about were the time of Jesus and what is supposedly our time today.

So what is going on?

When the Jews spoke of intense political events, they often used cosmic language. War would be such an event. This kind of language was not meant to be literal. It was meant to indicate chaos on the realm of Earth as kings and others went to battle. The disciples would have understood that war was coming.

Don’t read the text like Tyson. Read it like a first-century Jew. If you do that and you read it as the language of warfare and judgment, then again, Jesus is still spot on. You are also being consistent with the prior first-century milleu found in the text.

But that’s one verse. What about others?

We’ll see when we get there.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Neil deGrasse Tyson Embarrasses Himself Again

Is Tyson speaking out of his area again? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Neil deGrasse Tyson of Cosmos has had a history of not getting his facts right when speaking to public audiences. I found out yesterday while browsing on Facebook that he had spoken to Bill Moyers on Moyers and Company. The Friendly Atheist gave a report on the interview here. Unfortunately, when Tyson spoke, he again revealed that he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about and this time it was done when talking about the second coming of Christ.

At the start, Tyson doesn’t realize apparently that there’s much debate about what is called the second coming. There are some Christians that see the discourse in Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation as referring to a future scenario. Then there are some who like myself see it more referring to a past event. We look forward to the future bodily return of Christ, but Matthew 24 is really talking about the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. Probably the best work you can read on Matthew 24 from that perspective now is Dee Dee Warren’s It’s Not The End Of The World. You can also listen to my interview with her on that book here.

Of course, Tyson doesn’t know about any of this. What I first was confronted with was a meme that someone made meant to show that the Bible cannot be trusted on anything, which is already itself a strange statement to make. Because the Bible was supposedly unscientific at one point, we cannot trust it on anything whatsoever? You can always count on fundamentalists to have all-or-nothing thinking, but let’s take a look at the meme itself.

starstoEarth

Once again, I would have liked to have thought that this was a misquote. I would like to have thought that he did not say this. Unfortunately, the link from The Friendly Atheist shows otherwise. Of course, Tyson in all of this is showing that faith and science are supposedly incompatible. Towards the end of the article, he makes statements that could help indicate the cause of his misconception.

So, this whole sort of reinterpretation of the, how figurative the poetic passages of the Bible are came after science showed that this is not how things unfolded. And so the educated religious people are perfectly fine with that. It’s the fundamentalists who want to say that the Bible is the literally, literal truth of God, that and want to see the Bible as a science textbook, who are knocking on the science doors of the schools, trying to put that content in the science room. Enlightened religious people are not behaving that way. So saying that science is cool, we’re good with that, and use the Bible for, to get your spiritual enlightenment and your emotional fulfillment.

Unfortunately, Tyson doesn’t realize that his hang-up on literalism is not one that was shared by the early church. The fathers, for instance, had a great love of allegory. This was also long before the rise of modern science. Saint Augustine wrote a book where he argued that all of creation happened instantly and did so in a book about the literal meaning of Genesis. In fact, you can find here a great statement from Augustine:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field in which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

Keep in mind this is long before modern science.

The irony is that Tyson is doing to religion exactly what he accuses of religion doing to science. Tyson is knocking on the doors of religion trying to get to insist on a literalist interpretation of Scripture and saying that this is how it should be done. You can be a strong conservative holding to positions like inerrancy and reject the idea of the Bible as a science textbook and insist that not everything has to be interpreted “literally.” Tyson thus wants to treat the idea that taking the Bible “literally” is ridiculous when not only does he do it himself, but he shows no indication that there are other understandings of the passages under question held by even conservatives.

It could be understandable why Tyson interprets the data of Scripture the way that he does given the modern context that we live in. On the other hand, Tyson could also recognize that when it comes to claims like evolution, for a number of people, it could be said that they just look at the data of the complexity of nature and the beauty of the universe and find that’s an inadequate answer. Tyson would probably say they need to study the evidence of evolution before dismissing it so quickly, and he would be right. I say the same thing back. Before Tyson speaks on interpretation, he needs to actually study it and how the text has been interpreted throughout the centuries and what some interpretations are of such passages.

Of course, he also ends with saying that many of us can go and still get our emotional and spiritual fulfillment. Tyson is unaware that many of us go that route for intellectual fulfillment. We believe in Christianity because it actually answers the questions of the mind. Whether or not it gives spiritual or emotional fulfillment is irrelevant, and frankly, many of us will often say that it does not. The Christian life is not always rainbows and roses. I like how C.S. Lewis said years ago that he didn’t go to Christianity to be happy because he knew a bottle of port would do that just fine. If we were searching for emotional and spiritual fulfillment, many of us would go elsewhere.

Now of course, I recognize Tyson is a scientist, but the problem is scientists like him are speaking about how much religious people who do not understand science are trying to speak on the topic without knowledge. I agree. I have a problem with that going on. I would join Tyson in that. The problem I have is that has to be a two-way street. Tyson does not get to speak on religion just because he is a scientist. If Tyson wants to make his audience more friendly to what he has to say, then he needs to learn to not speak on areas where people who do know what they’re talking about will only roll their eyes.

Will he and others like him ever learn?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why I Don’t Use Wikipedia For Debate

Is there a better source that you can go to? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’d like to clarify that this is for the purpose of debate. As a gamer, I have no problem going to something like the Final Fantasy Wiki for information on something in Final Fantasy and I don’t mind pop culture wikis as well. These are areas that are controlled by a fan base where much of the information is agreed upon. What I do object to is in regular debate on controversial issues, people using Wikipedia as a source.

I do not doubt that Wikipedia was founded with a good goal in mind. Surely if we can get the people to come together and share their knowledge and correct one another, then we can get a good and reliable source. The problem is the same as happens when you often have a Bible study. You do not often get common knowledge with some as much as you get common ignorance. When people come together with misconceptions, all that is required is the mass speak very loudly and the minority who actually knows what they’re talking about be shut down by gatekeepers.

Unfortunately, Wikipedia has this problem. When you read something on Wiki, you have no idea who really wrote it. It could be by someone who is a Ph.D. in a relevant field. That’s always a possibility. It could instead be a fifteen year-old kid who is just sharing what he learned in his high school classroom that day.

Most likely, it will be the latter. People who are Ph.D.’s and work hard to get where they are don’t generally just freely give out their information. They might be glad to give a talk somewhere, which happens, and they could have a blog, but for their best information, you have to go and buy the books that they write. That’s how it should be.

Unfortunately, Wikipedia can be badly misused because the gatekeepers are quite likely not really knowledgeable in each subject they watch over. How do they know how to separate the wheat from the chaff? Also, as it stands, Wikipedia can be easily fooled and the misinformation can sometimes be hilarious. (For some hilarious reading on bad writing on Wikipedia, I recommend the Ebooks “Citation Needed.” They can be a bit crude at times, but there is much in there that will literally have you laughing out loud, and I do mean literally in this case.)

One example of Wikipedia being misused was the Shane Fitzgerald case. Fitzgerald was a student at Dublin University and was doing a test. He wanted to see how well the media would do its research in out globalized age. His poetic but entirely fake quote did make several newspapers because, hey, it was on Wikipedia.

More recently is the case of Neil Degrasse Tyson. Many quotes Tyson had given had been fabricated or ripped out of their context. The gatekeepers of Wikipedia worked to stop this from being mentioned on his Wikipedia page. This should be enough to cause anyone to be concerned, and there’s no picking on Tyson because he’s a non-Christian. It’s because fabrication like this is wrong whoever does it. We should condemn a Christian doing it just as much.

Now someone might say “But Wikipedia can have good references.” Okay. If you want to give me information in a debate, then point me to those references, unless of course you haven’t read them. The problem with the internet is anyone can look like an expert when you just do a cut and paste job from a blog or a web site such as Wikipedia. (And yes, I have seen this happen online repeatedly and I always make it a point to call out someone when they do a cut and paste job without proper citation because hey, sometimes there is a citation needed.)

Until then, if you debate me, do not bother citing Wikipedia. I have a firm rule. If it is a debate on these matters, I will not even bother reading Wiki. I will not click the link. Give me a real source because if your claim is true and it is being said by scholars in the field, then you can find a real source.

That could require work. I realize that. If you’re not willing to work in the debate, then don’t show up. That applies to Christians and non-Christians both.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Why Neil DeGrasse Tyson Should Stick To Science

Is science unique for the reason Tyson thinks it is? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

How many of you have seen this meme in some form around the internet?

goodthingscience

The sad reality is that this gets shared in several places since some atheists seem to actually think this is an argument in some way. In fact, the reason Tyson himself said the quote is because he believes it is a powerful statement about a unique aspect of science. Of course, this is why he has been called a Philistine.

The reality is that about 10 seconds worth of thought on this quote would be enough to show that it is a terrible argument, but since there’s a meme of it it sadly seems to have some rhetorical power. How is it nonsense? Simple. Substitute anything in for science and see how it works.

“The good thing about astrology is that it’s true whether you believe in it or not.”

“The good thing about the Book of Mormon is that it’s true whether you believe in it or not.”

“The good thing about the moral acceptance of genocide is that it’s true whether you believe in it or not.”

Tyson’s claim should not be read as a claim about science per se, but rather a claim about the nature of truth. If anything is true, and that includes science, it is true whether or not anyone believes in it. If it’s true that Julius Caesar sneezed after he had lunch on his 21st birthday, it’s true whether you believe in it or not.

“Well we can’t prove that that’s true.”

Doesn’t matter. If it’s true, it’s true whether you believe in it or not.

“Well we have no evidence.”

Doesn’t matter. If it’s true, it’s true whether you believe in it or not.

Now Tyson could say that science can be done repeatedly in experiments so we can test a truth claim. Indeed it can and this is something that is unique, but it still doesn’t lend support to his earlier claim. This is just one way that distinguishes science but it doesn’t distinguish the nature of the claims themselves. All claims about reality that are true are true whether they’re believed in or not.

The real problem is a sort of scientism here that science is the highest way of knowing truth and sometimes the only way of knowing truth. Both of these should be rejected by everyone. Now if materialism was true and everything that was in the universe was matter, then you could perhaps have a start of a case, but that is not known through science. That is known by doing philosophy instead.

When it comes to understanding the way nature behaves in the material world, then science is without a doubt the best tool that we have. If you want to know what makes water what it is or how an internal combustion engine works or what the nature of planets in other galaxies are, then science is the way to go!

In fact, if anything can be demonstrated scientifically, the Christian should have no fear of it. After all, all truth is God’s truth and if Jesus rose from the dead, not a single fact established by science can ever overturn that. In fact, this is why I recommend that when you argue against a scientific position, don’t bring Scripture into it. That makes it the Bible vs. Science and guess which way your atheist opponent is going to go.

Honestly, if you’re not well-read in science, I wouldn’t even argue science at all. If you are, then if a claim about science is false, then that is simply bad science being done. How do you overturn that? You do good science instead!

Suppose you don’t believe macroevolution is true. Okay. That’s fine. If that’s what you think then you don’t need to go to Genesis which your opponent does not accept. It means as much to him as it does when a Muslim quotes you the Koran.

Instead, if macroevolution is false, then those who believe in it are somehow doing bad science. How will you demonstrate this? You’ll do what you think is good science. Now whether macroevolution is bad science or not is not my call to make, but if it is, it will only be overturned by good science. If it is not, then it will not be overturned.

While we should be thankful and celebrate people getting a more scientific education, let’s be wary of philosophy going around masquerading as science and not just philosophy, but bad philosophy (Which needs to be overturned by good philosophy). Tyson certainly has authority in his field of science, but when talking about the nature of truth, he is outside of his field and should not be taken as an authority.

In Christ,
Nick Peters